Symptoms of a Dog Who Fell Down the Stairs

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A dog walks down the stairs.
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Maybe your pup is hesitant to come down the steps, or perhaps you heard a suspicious noise when you were in the other room. The thought of your dog taking a nasty tumble down the stairs is frightening. There's a host of potential complications from a bad fall, including sprained muscles, broken bones and internal injuries.

Tough Moves

If your dog is hobbling around, walking with a limp or not moving quite right, she may have taken a bumpy ride down the steps. A limp suggests pain, weakness or something wrong in the affected leg. There are many potential causes of a limp, including growth spurts and arthritis, but trauma, such as a fall, can lead to a variety of potential injuries. A torn ligament, muscle or tendon, dislocated joint or nerve damage are all possible from a stumble on the stairs, presenting as a limp or trouble moving around. She may whine or cry when she moves, as well.

Internal Trauma

A nasty spill, whether on the steps or coming off a jump, can lead to internal injuries, which can be tough to spot. If you take a fall, you might notice a bruise on your skin, as the tiny blood vessels beneath the surface burst from impact. However, it's difficult to see bruising on your dog since she's likely covered in fur. You can look for signs of internal damage by paying close attention to her behavior. If she's breathing shallowly, she may have lung damage. Coughing up blood can indicate injured lungs, abdomen or gastrointestinal organs.


Signs of Shock

Shock often accompanies traumatic injuries and your dog may show symptoms to include a rapid heart rate, bright red lips, gums and tongue, and panting -- all common in the early stages. In late-stage shock, breathing is much slower and her body temperature drops; her lips, gums and tongue are pale and her pulse is very weak.

In Her Head

If your dog bumps her head on a fall on the steps, she may suffer a head injury. A laceration or bleeding is the obvious sign of a head injury, but skull fractures and brain injuries aren't so easy to see. If she's suffered a contusion, or bruising, she won't lose consciousness but she will appear disoriented and wobbly. If she loses consciousness, she has a concussion, which may be mild, showing as a brief loss of consciousness, or severe, lasting hours or days. She may experience seizures, either immediately after the fall or as long as weeks after the injury as scars form where brain tissue died. In severe brain injuries, the brain swells and bleeds, affecting consciousness, or blood clots may form, showing lowered consciousness, one dilated pupil and potential weakness or paralysis in the limbs.


To the Vet

It's possible your dog lost her footing in her exuberance to run down the stairs to get a start on her day. However, if she's an old hand at taking the steps, keep a close eye on her to see if she's falling more than usual. There are a variety of reasons a dog may begin to fall, including inner ear infections, vestibular syndrome, tumors and strokes. You should have the vet examine her if she's falling more than usual. If your dog is showing any symptoms of suffering a fall, it's important she gets checked out by a vet to ensure she hasn't experienced a serious injury you can't see.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.